Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Bright Start

Evidence level:
 
Evidence of effectiveness:
? - 0 + ++
Transferability:
? - 0 + ++
Enduring impact:
? - 0 +

Project overview

Bright Start is a programme for cognitive education for children aged 3-6 years old, especially those at high risk of school failure based on social circumstances such as ethnic minority, inner city residence, and low socio-economic status (SES) group.  The programme supplements traditional preschool and kindergarten curricula.   The curriculum is designed to promote a set of cognitive functions including self-regulation in response to instructions, comparison, verbal labelling, precision and accuracy in data-gathering, systematic exploratory behaviour, and spatial referents (such as ‘left’ and ‘right’) through eight units of 20-25 small-group lessons each on the topics of self-regulation, number concepts, comparison, role-taking, classification, patterns and sequences, letter-shape concepts, and (recently added) transformation (Brooks & Haywood, 2003; Paour & Cèbe, 2000).

Practice category

  • Helping Vulnerable Children

Recommendation pillar

  • Enhance family support and the quality of alternative care settings 
  • Improve education systems’ impact on equal opportunities
  • Reduce inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care

Countries that have implemented practice

  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

The Bright Start programme and curriculum was developed by H. C. Haywood, P.H. Brooks, and S. Burns at Vanderbilt University in the United States, building on the cognitive developmental work of Piaget, Vygotsky, Haywood, and Feuerstein and other experts in cognitive function and mediational teaching. It was first implemented in the early 1980’s in Nashville, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington  in the United States and soon after in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, France. It has also been implemented in Canada, Israel, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Singapore, Iceland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ghana, and the Netherlands. The Bright Start programme has been evaluated with evidence for positive outcomes in France, Belgium, Spain, Israel, Singapore, Canada and the United States.

Age groups

  • Young Children (age 0 to 5)
  • Middle Childhood (age 6 to 12)

Target groups

  • Children
  • Children/teenagers with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Years in operation

  • 1993  - still operating

Scope of practice

Not available

Type of organisation implementing practice

  • Private Education Organisation

Rationale of the practice

Bright Start is delivered in kindergarten and preschool settings in a form of small-group lessons for 5-6 students at a time.  The lessons are between 20 and 30 minutes and consist of exercises with detailed instructions for teaching a constructive lesson with a questioning technique.  Lessons consist of one topic at a time, but include an initial task and a variation to help the children understand the range of application of the lesson’s problem-solving concept.  Later in the same day, the teacher presents tasks to the entire class requiring the same cognitive function as in the small-group lesson with more academic content such as spelling or math.  At the end of the day, the teacher asks the children to remember the cognitive function discussed that day and to summarize what they have learned.  Children are also encouraged to evaluate themselves on whether they have accomplished the lesson tasks and justify whether they have been successful.

Mode of delivery

  • Group sessions

Delivery dosage

  • Frequency: Daily
  • Duration: Less than one hour sessions

Evidence of effectiveness

*Note that the following results have been achieved after teaching only two of the eight units in the programme curriculum: Self-Regulation and Comparison. The additional units Number Concepts, Role-Taking, Classification, Sequence and Pattern, Letter –Shape concepts, and Transformation have not been evaluated in the EU.

Evaluation 1

Paour, J.-L., Cèbe, S., & Haywood, H. C. (2000). Learning to learn in preschool education: Effects on Later School Achievement. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 1, 3-25.

This evaluation took place in North Marseille, France from 1993-1996 in an area where most children grow up in immigrant families.  The self-regulation and comparison units were taught by two intervention group kindergarten teachers and the other five Bright Start units were neither taught nor evaluated.  The kindergarten teachers had received training and instruction from the study authors on how to deliver the two Bright Start units.  Outcomes were measured via student academic records including grades, a paper-and-pencil test given by their teacher in the first grade, and national assessment tests at third grade entry.

Summary of results for evaluation 1

 Outcome

 Treatment Group  Comparison Group

Outcomes improved (statistically significant)

At entry to Grade 1:

n=20^

n=20^

Overall school learning
(without comparison tasks)

11.75

9.65

Overall school learning
(including comparison tasks)

7.45

6.15

Entry Exam for Grade 3:

n=34*

n=22*

Percent of students passing French 51.6%

41.8%

Percent of students passing Mathematics

48.7%

36.6%

Sub-scores on Entry Exam for Grade 3  

Problem-solving

6.30

4.17

Reading: Symbol system knowledge

17.14

13.17

Measurements

6.13

4.60

Written Composition

13.40

10.74

Number Operations

13.40

10.74

Geometry Operations 7.35 5.44

 Outcomes with no effect  

 Sub-scores on Entry Exam for Grade 3

n=34

n=22

 Spatial and Temporal Orientation Exam Sub-score 4.87 4.82

^At entry to Grade 1, 20 children each were selected at random from all students who had received the intervention in kindergarten (to form the intervention group) and from all students in the same school who had not received the intervention in kindergarten (to form the comparison group).

*Due to concerns about small sample size, Grade 3 samples were expanded to include every student who had participated in the intervention in an expanded intervention group and all children from the same third grade classes as the intervention children, who had received three years of preschool but had not received the intervention, in an expanded comparison group.

Evaluation 2

Cèbe, S. and Paour, J.-L., (2000).  Effects of Cognitive Education in Kindergarten On Learning to Read in the Primary Grades.  Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 1, 177-200.

This evaluation took place in France from 1995 to 1998 in a low-income, unidentified area called a zone d’éducation prioritaire where the French government has declared educational interventions to prevent school failure to be a high priority.  The self-regulation and comparison units were taught by the intervention group kindergarten teachers and the other five Bright Start units were neither taught nor evaluated.  Outcomes were measured via Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices (an intelligence test), the French Elementary School Admission Test (knowledge of verbal concepts, sorting and groups, and following instructions), and reading tests.

Summary of results for evaluation 2

Outcome

 Treatment Group (GE)   Comparison Group (GC1) 

Outcomes improved (statistically significant)  

Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices
(general intelligence)
Grade 1

23.86, n=23

19.81, n=53

Grade 2

28.04, n=22

22.84, n=45

First Grade Reading

Inizan’s test

n=23

n=44

Reading new words (out of 16)

10.30

6.93

Comprehension (out of 14)

10.34 6.79

Outcomes with no effect

First Grade Reading

Inizan’s test

n=23

n=44

Speed (out of 13)

5.52 4.72

Dictation (out of 17)

8.08 6.79

Transferability

Evaluations meeting minimum criteria for inclusion have only been conducted in one country in the EU, France, although Bright Start has been shown to have positive effects in the US, Israel, and Singapore.Training is available through the programme authors, Carl Haywood and Penny Brooks, as well as through a network of expert trainers.

Practice Materials

  • Practice materials are available online

Materials consisting of a teacher manual, parent manual, papers on programme theory, and a record-keeping booklet are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, Dutch, and Hebrew.  Editions of the materials are planned in Russian and Ukrainian. Materials can be obtained from www.charlesbridge.com

Cost information

  • Implementation cost information is not available

There is no information available on the complete cost of implementation of Bright Start; however, a classroom set of the programme materials costs approximately 100 euros.   Teacher training requires about 35 hours of intensive instruction followed by a period of consultation and supervision, primarily to acquire and exercise the elements of the mediational teaching style.

Enduring impact

Bright Start has been shown to have positive effects for problem-solving, mathematical and language concepts at entry to the 3rd grade, which is more than two years after the conclusion of programme delivery.  

Evaluation details

Evaluation 1

In this quasi-experimental evaluation of Bright Start in an area of North Marseille, France predominated by immigrant families, two kindergarten teachers taught the self-regulation and comparison units of the programme at the rate of one Bright Start lesson per week.  The intervention and two comparison groups were selected the following year by the study authors from children who had and had not received the Bright Start lessons, one comparison group chosen from the same school as the intervention and one comparison group chosen from a nearby school in a more affluent area.  Each group contained 20 students.  Starting in the third grade the study authors began collecting data from all children who received the intervention and all students in the same classes at the same school as the intervention children who had three years of pre-kindergarten experience but had not received the intervention in order to increase the sample size.

The study outcomes were assessed using school achievement data consisting of a first grade paper-and-pencil test that required students to follow instructions and make comparisons, second grade trimester grades for mathematics and for problem solving, and third grade national entrance exams covering reading, writing, and mathematics.

Evaluation 2

In this evaluation by the same study authors, again a few kindergarten teachers at a school in a low-income ‘zone d’education prioritaire’ (ZEP) in France taught the self-regulation and comparison Bright Start units at the pace of one lesson per week.  23 children received the intervention and in the same school, 53 children were chosen for the first comparison group.  45 children selected from a nearby school in a more affluent area comprised a second comparison group.  To participate in the study, children must have had at least two years of preschool education.  At the beginning of kindergarten, all three groups of children were assessed by Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM; Raven, 1979) to test general intelligence and the Elementary School Admission Test (Chautard-Messekaeker & Tettelin, 1979) to test knowledge of words, verbal concepts, ability to identify differences and groups, and ability to follow algorithms. The CPM was repeated at the end of the first, second and third grades along with the Inizan (1983) reading test in first grade.

Issues to consider

A co-developer of the Bright Start programme, Carl Haywood  visited and worked with Jean-Louis Paour and his students in years prior to the initiation of these two evaluation studies and co-authored Evaluation 1 (Paour, J.-L., Cèbe, S., & Haywood, H. C., 2000).   Haywood also contributed to training the teachers who implemented Bright Start in the 1993-1994 school year.  Both of these studies by Paour and Cèbe used small sample sizes, which meant that for follow-up outcome measures in the second grade in Evaluation 1 (Paour, J.-L., Cèbe, S., & Haywood, H. C., 2000) and in the second and third grades in Evaluation 2 (Cèbe, S. and Paour, J.-L., 2000), attrition caused the sample to become too small to provide reasonable statistical evidence of effectiveness. Those follow-up measures with insufficient sample size are not listed above. The remaining sample sizes, while within our evidence criteria guidelines, are still relatively small (20-53 children) so the studies’ statistical power may have been reduced.

As noted, these two evaluations only utilized two out of eight units within the Bright Start curriculum, Self-Regulation and Comparison.  The additional units Number Concepts, Role-Taking, Classification, Sequence and Pattern, and Letter-Shape  Concepts  (and Transformation, added recently) have not been evaluated in the EU.  An evaluation in Spain (Molina & Vived, 2004) used Bright Start for children with Down’s Syndrome, but did not implement a control group.  Other evaluations of Bright Start failing to meet our criteria for evidence of effectiveness have been carried out in Belgium, Finland, and the Netherlands.

Available resources

30-40 hour intensive teacher trainings are available for teachers and supervisors who wish to implement the Bright Start programme, and can be arranged by contacting the programme authors, Carl Haywood and Penny Brooks, as well as through a network of expert trainers. Materials can be obtained from www.charlesbridge.com

Bibliography

  • Cèbe, S. & Paour, J.-L., (2000).  Effects of Cognitive Education in Kindergarten On Learning to Read in the Primary Grades.  Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 1, 177-200.
  • Paour, J.-L., Cèbe, S., & Haywood, H. C. (2000). Learning to learn in preschool education: Effects on Later School Achievement. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 1, 3-25.

Last updated

May 2019

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